Huffington Post UK has 13,000 contributors and not one of them receives a dime for their words. For a large newspaper to admit this is similar to slapping a writer in the face. It says their contributions are worthless. Except Huffington Post is making scads of money.
A few days ago, I received the manuscript for Twistmas – The Season for Love back from my editor. Once again, I was reminded why editors are vital to making you not look illiterate. Or more accurately: why someone other than the author of the story must edit the manuscript.
I do a lot of editing for writers. I’m not familiar with the stories they’ve written; I’ve not read them dozens of times for years on end, tweaking the characters’ personalities, rearranging scenes and ensuring the plot runs in a logical manner. So when I first read a sentence in their story, if something is missing, I can immediately see it isn’t there. That’s right, what isn’t there.
Sometimes what isn’t there is a word, a complete, obvious, full-blown word, such as ‘you’. My editor noticed it wasn’t there in this sentence and added it for me.
If you missed my post yesterday about editing, you can read it here: The Importance of Good Editing.
First the meaning of First Draft: The version that has never been edited, just written without thought of little else but getting the words down on paper. Mind you, after all these years of writing, I try to write correctly the first time. In other words, I properly edit and spell on the fly as much as I can. Don’t confuse this with rereading passages to edit before proceeding to the next scene. I’ve met writers in the past who don’t perform basic editing while writing, simply write incomplete sentences with very little punctuation. This makes editing the manuscript that much more labour intense. If you know quotation marks go there, put them in as your write.
As promised in yesterday’s post here are the steps I take to edit my manuscript after I’ve completed the first draft.
1. Read the manuscript for consistency, to see how it feels as a whole story. I ask myself the following questions:
- Does it make sense to me and will it make sense to readers?
- Does the time frame work? In other words, is a character five years old in one paragraph and eight in another even though only a few weeks passed? Or is it snowing in one chapter and summer in the next with only a few hours passing?
- Is every character necessary, are they consistent and are their names correct? I don’t want the side-kick to be called Freda in chapter one and Betty in chapter six unless there is a darn good reason for it.
- Is there enough action/plot/character development for it to be a complete, interesting story?
- Do the chapter divisions make sense?
If I find issues with any of these items, I fix them before moving on to Step 2.
Editing. That’s the mammoth task every writer must face in the process of publishing a book. I know some writers don’t bother—you can easily spot their eBooks like you can an elephant in your corn chowder—but editing is the one essential task that must be done and done to a specific professional level to gain success and respect in self-publishing. It can’t be half-assed, sped through or done with no knowledge on how to do it.
Readers will notice. Other writers will notice too. Even my ten-year-old can spot a spelling mistake.
Unedited books also become fair game to reviewers. Some will politely tell the author there are mistakes or that “this is a good first draft” or “it has potential”, but most will not be so kind.
Here are a few actual one-star reviews from Amazon
Not so long ago, I scoured publisher’s websites for guidelines to see what they were looking for in a book. I kept all the advice in mind as I wrote. Were they looking for young adult stories about specific sports? Did they need books for teenaged girls who battled with self-image? Or books geared towards reluctant readers? What about the adults? Were they reading more romance or mystery or western?
Many publishers dictated structure. Books need to be between this word count and that. They couldn’t contain content about this or the other thing, and definitely no rhyming books for kids. Many times I felt confined by these regulations, that I couldn’t write the story I really wanted to tell.
I heard of Jay Underwood long before I actually met him. He was a frequent contributor to genealogy mailing lists I subscribed to. Sometimes he’d pose a question; other times, he’d answer a query. I learnt from these exchanges that he was a railway history buff and that he lived only a few communities away.
Eventually, Jay and I exchanged messages regarding one genealogy matter or another, and then we joined a new writer’s group at our local library. In the past three years, our paths have crossed numerous times. When the time came to find an editor for my latest novel, Shadows in the Stone, it was as simple as asking Jay if I could hire him for the task.
I first went in search of an editor in the fall of 2010. I had decided to self-publish the youth novel Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove (under the pen name Candy McMudd) and knew I couldn’t complete the final edit myself – no writer can.
My search began on the Internet. I googled editors specifically in Canada for two reasons.
1) I wanted to use Canadian English in my novel and believed an editor outside of the country might have difficulty knowing which spellings we used.
2) I’m patriotic and wanted to shop locally.
The Shadows in the Stone manuscript has now been purged of passive words (Part I) and edited by me (Part II). It took a little over a month to complete the 42 chapters in Part II. The word count currently hovers around 127,000, about 3,000 less than I anticipated.
While completing this edit, I learnt I have 65 named characters and 38 place names. There are still two fellows I need to find last names for, but I’ll do that this week.
On Saturday February 11th, Genevieve Graham will be at Chapter, Bayers Lake, Halifax (12:00pm to 1:30 pm) and Chapter, Mic Mac Mall, Dartmouth (2:30 pm to 4:00 pm) signing copies of her debut novel Under the Same Sky.
I met Genevieve in the fall of 2010 while looking for an editor for Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove. It was my first time working with an editor like this, and she made the experience less painful than I’m sure it could have been. She was very professional, returned my manuscript quickly and offered encouragement.